Tribal cemetery recovery complete in Fond du Lac


October 11, 2019

The Minnesota Indian Affairs Council and the Office of the State Archaeologist — in consultation with the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa — have notified the Minnesota Department of Transportation that grave recovery efforts at the historic Mission Creek cemetery in Duluth’s Fond du Lac neighborhood have been completed.

The project started after May 2017, when MnDOT uncovered burial remains in the historic cemetery while excavating to replace the Mission Creek Bridge. Since that time, project partners and contractors have worked together to respectfully complete burial recovery efforts. In May, the Fond du Lac Band took the lead in recovery efforts, executing an aggressive work plan and doubling crew size from that of previous contractors.

As the work crew neared completion of recovery efforts, concerns were raised about the possibility of negatively impacting areas of the cemetery that were not part of the original disturbance. As a result, work was halted so that MIAC and OSA, in consultation with the band, could reassess the remaining workload and determine how to best move forward. Protecting the cemetery was important to all parties, and after careful consideration it was determined there was no need to conduct further recovery.

The next steps will be to return soils to the central cemetery slope, officially define the cemetery boundaries, and repatriate remains and burial-related items. The agencies are also working with a landscape architect who will aid in the development of the cemetery’s final design. Upon delineation of the final cemetery boundaries, MnDOT will restart the project development process to address the Mission Creek Bridge.

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